This is one of my favorite lessons in the workbook. I truly believe that it encapsulates several core ideas that are essential to practicing A Course in Miracles. We are the one with the power. We exercise the power by choosing to think differently. Changing our thoughts changes what we see, or perceive. And the result? Peace. That’s the Course in a nutshell.
I spent the night in a hospital. I arrived late, after a long day, and I stayed up for about nine hours sitting by my father’s bed. I hate hospitals. They make me feel powerless. They’re like bland bureaucracies with the power of life and death. I feel depersonalized and threatened when I am in them. And that’s on top of worrying about whomever I’m there to support or help.
I respond generally with rage-like fantasies that are scary and embarrassing and silly. It’s like part of my mind has to compensate for the fear and to do so it imagines me – the physical me – as being bigger and badder than a hospital ever could be. It’s crazy.
But I have to do better than that – or I want to – because I am needed in that situation and I do not help anybody – not my father, not myself, not my siblings or my mother, not the dedicated staff – nobody – if I am crazy and sullen and paranoid.
Lesson 34 was a beautiful antidote, even if highly annoying at times.
I began practicing it at about 3 a.m. while my father slept. The room was tiny and the chair was hard but it was a fine and mellow meditation. I read the lesson by the light of my cell phone, then closed my eyes. I found that my mind followed the previous lessons – I am not the victim of the world I see because I have invented the world I see. There is another way of looking at the world. I could see peace instead of this.
I’ll tell you something else, too. Perhaps because it was quiet and dark, perhaps because it was an unusual and intense situation, but I broke the “rules” a little bit. I did the five minute meditation – because I fully recognize and accept the truth that peace is an inside job, an internal matter and the external world merely reflects that internal condition – but when it was over I opened my eyes and kept going. I’d look at the hospital bed. I could see peace instead of this. The cord you yank to call the nurses? I could see peace instead of this. The concrete garage blocking my view out the window? I could see peace instead of this.
Then I applied it to sounds. That beeping from the saline drip? I could see peace instead of this. The snoring two doors down? I could see peace instead of this. The doctor telling a joke?
I could see peace instead of this.
The funny thing was, I’d gone into the whole situation in a good place. What I mean by that is that I was crazy and frazzled place but I was willing. I wasn’t going into it alone. I walked into that hospital fully expecting the worst but ready to be okay with it. This is going to suck, Jesus, and we both know it, but let’s get it done. And at first – for a quick couple of minutes – it did suck. All the doors were locked. But then this guy – who knows what he was doing sitting in a dark car with his window open – directed me to the one door that was open. The don’t-mess-with-me security officer at the front desk? Asked about the weather before directing me upstairs. The nurse who was going to demand I leave because “visiting hours” were over? She brought me a pillow and a blanket.
Every turn – whatever happened – the worst turned out to be okay. No, it was better than okay. Not earth-shattering. But it was fine. And then, at some point during my Lesson 34 mumbles, maybe around the time the sun was starting to rise, it hit me. Things were okay because I was okay. That willingness at the beginning meant I was bringing my will into alignment with God’s will. And even though that didn’t pacify the ego – hence the ongoing fear etc. – it certainly did open something deeper, something beyond the ego’s reach. I experienced love and safety at each turn because I am love and safety. No me as in Sean, you understand. Me as in you and me. And you and me as in God.
This was a sort of peaceful recognition. I was exhausted – sleep-deprived – strung out on bad coffee – worried about how the rest of the day was going to pan out. No light shows. No dulcet voices. Just a sweet warm sense of peace. I’m okay. It’s okay. When I’m willing to act as if I’m not an ego – when I’m willing to be a miracle worker even though I totally doubt the wisdom of the assignment – I’m joined. Maybe it’s Jesus. Maybe it’s the Holy Spirit. And maybe there is really nothing out there but Love.